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Life under communism: Organisations (Part 2)

Posted January 16th, 2013 at 06:28 AM by Spatar

I am posting my second article on organizations in Communist Romania trying to deal with those who were seen as more powerful and more serious: trade unions and the Front of Socialist Democracy and Unity

1) Trade unions were a sort of necessary evil for the Communists. Normally they would have been dismantled but a party that was presenting itself as the vanguard of the working class could not really eliminate them. Thus the trade unions were given the role of “transmission belt” of the policies of the Communist Party to the large masses of the working people.

As far as I can remember membership in trade union was compulsory for every single employee. This meant a small amount of your salary taken by the trade union and you had to be present sometimes to some meetings. The leaders of the trade unions were kind of big shots in the management of the companies nearby the director and the secretary of the Party organization. The trade union had one essential function: through the trade unions the employees were given the state owed flats, one of the few tangible advantages in the communist society. That made the leaders of the trade unions particularly influent and prone to corruption (for a better flat, for an earlier repartition).

Another thing was that the Trade Union General Association had a large wealth in hotels in most of the resorts of Romania so every employee could buy a ticket for a vacation in their hotels.

2) The Front of Socialist Democracy and Unity has never been an organization people could really identify. In accordance with the Constitution of Romania the candidatures for the Parliament were presented by the Front of Socialist Democracy and Unity, the largest political permanent organism, democratic revolutionary which constitutes the organizational framework of unification, under the guidance of the Communist Party of the political and social forces of our socialist nation of all mass and citizen organizations, for the participation of all people to the fulfillment of the internal and foreign policy of the party and the state, in the leadership of all areas of activity.

Don’t try to make a sense out of it; it hardly makes sense in Romanian also.

Basically the Front was supposed to gather all the organisations that possibly existed under the communist regime (some of them were really embarrassing for the Party but could not be scraped like Association of Friendship with the USSR J) and put them under the leadership of the Party.

The original intent was to try to bring some non communist personalities in the mainstream political life without asking them to enroll in the Party and also to allow the presence in the Parliament of the representatives of different religious denominations (the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, the rabbi of Romania and the Mufti of the Islamic Community were members of the communist Parliament).

It did work but, as I told the Front was never more than a ghost organization, unlike all other I wrote about. It never had any offices in the country (apart from a central office in Bucharest). It was also used as a “graveyard of elephants” the place where Ceausescu was sending the potential rivals. The most notorious case was that of his most brilliant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Corneliu Manescu, the real architect of the policy of distance from the USSR. In 1972 he was removed from Foreign Affairs and sent to be the chief of the Front.

The Front vanished in 1989 as it would have never been. However, its’ model was imitated by the post communist oligarchy that replaced Ceausescu. For a month or so the new power was very reluctant to allow political pluralism and was telling us that the pluralism could exist within the Front (again!) of National Salvation, the name of the communist – secret police alliance that overthrew Ceausescu.

I le the last post on organizations for THE Organization, the Romanian Communist Party.
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